As we’ve become more comfortable hosting and attending Zoom meetings throughout the last 12 months, it is important to check ourselves on Zoom etiquette. There are basic standards such as appropriate attire, having a professional setting and being on time, but let’s take a closer look at how to ensure a more professional and effective Zoom experience.
Consider the Type of Meeting
By now, many of us have experienced large group meetings of 20 or more attendees, one-on-one meetings with colleagues, and perhaps even meetings of 100 or more (good luck to that Host!). And while many expectations for a Zoom participant are the same across all of those occasions, some may vary. In large groups, for example, turning off your camera can be acceptable whereas unmuting yourself in a crowd of 100+ is not. Alternatively, turning off your camera in a Zoom meeting of 15 people from your office would likely be considered poor taste, but remaining unmuted and engaging in conversation would be expected.
Similarly, there are more formal versus informal occasions that may take place at a Zoom meeting; i.e. an interview for a new job position versus a conference with your secretary to hash out the week’s schedule. Know your role in the Zoom and use your best judgement to determine the proper etiquette for the occasion. We have all had fewer opportunities for first impressions and to demonstrate our work ethic in recent months, make the most of your position as a Zoom participant.
As you would with any meeting, be prepared with any materials or resources you may want to reference during your Zoom. Have your materials organized so you are not rummaging through papers. Have a writing implement and paper ready for note taking. Being prepared also means eating, drinking and visiting the lavatory beforehand, and, of course, being on time.
Camera Positioning and Bonus Features
An ideal camera angle is straight on or angled slightly downward. For those familiar with taking selfies, it is a similar approach. Additionally, your body should fill most of the frame without being too up close so someone on the other end could count the freckles on your nose. A bonus built-in feature within Zoom Video Settings is the option Touch up my appearance which softens your video and hides minimal wrinkles and blemishes. The Video Setting Adjust for low light is also useful for balancing light in dim spaces and providing a more aesthetically pleasing tone on your video.
Keep a Tidy Space and Close the Door
When Zoom first entered our homes, for many of us in 2020, we were all intrigued by the view into our co-workers’ and clients’ homes. We were also forgiving and understanding of tight working conditions and interruptions from children and pets. Flash forward a year, it’s become more expected that a tidy and established workspace be seen and barking dogs and inquisitive children not be heard. Of course, if your Zoom meeting is a cooking class or book club you can be lax about these things.
It can be easy for one’s attention to wander after sitting in front of a screen for endless hours, day after day, but don’t lose sight of the fact that Zoom is a video conference tool. Even if your focus has shifted, someone is watching your video and likely picking up on your distracted behavior. Not only does that look poorly on you, but now you have distracted another participant.
When it is your turn to speak, demonstrate your focus by looking into the camera when you are talking. This may be easier said than done. I mean, it’s not easy to stare into a small lens or a tiny black dot at the top of your computer screen for minutes at a time. But imagine how you’re being perceived from the other end.
Be Judicious With Backgrounds
There is some debate out there about the use of backgrounds on Zoom. Employers like to know you are where you say you are, not sitting on a beach in Mexico (trust me, I’ve thought about it). However, they can also prove to be a distraction to those watching your video. But if a simple, calm background blocks out a disorganized space or the bathroom you are hiding in from your children then I say it’s worth considering. A quick search for professional Zoom backgrounds will provide many great options.
When in doubt about Zoom meeting etiquette, imagine this meeting as an in-person setting and ask yourself whether you would wear those pants in a conference room or stare out the window while your boss is highlighting goals for the next quarter. While many of us will not rely on Zoom meetings forever, the remote opportunity has opened many doors for facilitating workflow that may forever be beneficial in our professional and personal lives.